Monday, 20 February 2017

Learn How To Make Free Style Mosaic out of Recycled Material

Ancient technique, trendy upcycling and modern designs. Mosaic is one of those easy to learn techniques every keen upcycler and DIYer should handle just because it is such a good way to use broken china, pottery, glass and tile. Technique also offers endless possibilities to learn more and challenge oneself. There are many ways to make mosaic, you can go with the flow or plan the pattern very precisely. In this tutorial I will concentrate to the very basics of mosaic: how to make it with the tools most of the households already have, what is suitable material and how the process of making mosaic goes. After this short package you can start making your own projects! This is not a complete guide about mosaics but more of an introduction and encouragement to try this technique. This is why I have collected a further reading list for those who really get hooked in this technique and want to study more.

Materials and where to get them

What comes to making mosaic almost everything goes. Most of us have broken plates, mugs, jugs, flower pots, glass and spare tiles in our cupboards and storage. If not you can begin to save these kind of potential mosaic materials. You can also ask for your friends and relatives if they have any material you could use. Trash bins and thrift shops are also good sources of material as you can get things free or with a very low cost. The amount of material relies on the surface you want to cover: a potcoaster comes from two mugs but for a table you will need a box of material. What comes to color some like to collect as many colors and patterns as possible and some work with just one color. It is you to choose! When using one color you can use grout that is of contrast color so the pieces will stand out from each other.

Other materials you will need are grout that can be purchased from hardware store and universal glue.You will also need a surface that you can cover with the mosaic.


When getting to know the technique you will do with basic equipment. You will need a hammer, thick towel and strong cutting board when you hammer the material into small pieces. If you want to practice more precise works you can use mosaic hammer and nippers to get certain shapes. I am not using any special mosaic tools in my projects, just plain hammer. I think the equipment you will need relies on what is it that you want to do, free style mosaics or precise designs.


This is matter of creativity but you can cover a terracotta flower pot, plywood board, table, tray or old door/ window just to mention some examples. Good way to try the technique would be small table or other flat surface.

If you browse books about mosaic you will learn that there are as many ways of making mosaic as there are makers. Some works are like Victorian crazy quilts that are made of leftover or recycled material. The others are carefully designed and demand a plan how to cut the material into clean pieces. I have to remind that some works are made of small ceramic squares that are sold on craft stores. So don´t get a pressure to get that kind of squares out of your old plates :D Mosaics that are made of pieces hammered or cut by hand are usually more organic shape even though some very practiced makers get relatively even pieces. Quite many mosaic makers do not even aim at getting squares but use random shapes. If you want to use even squares you can use those sold from craft stores.

Even though you are not seeking after strictly planned design it is good to make plan about how you want to use color. You can also use abstract shapes and geometry. Some like to collect broken pieces, like plates, together by attaching pieces in the same form as the object used to be. To get started you can for example check my Pinterest where I have collected a board named Mosaic inspiration.

Preparing the material

SAFETY FIRST: Make sure you got goggles, gloves that protect from cuts and earmuffs!! When you hammer the material into pieces it might fly uncontrollable way.

Old cutting board, towels and a fabric bag are good tools when you hammer the plates, pots and china. Put the object into a fabric bag and hammer. After you have hammered the object into few pieces you can work with one piece at the time to get smaller pieces. It is up to you how small pieces you want/need in your work. In free style mosaic small pieces make it possible to follow patterns ( you sort of fill the shape with small particles like in pointillism ). Also when putting the material into pieces pay attention to fun details like handles that you might want to keep as whole ( I used whole mug handles in my work as a fun detail).

Ice cream and candy boxes are great for storing sharp mosaic materials. I got empty loose candy boxes from the nearby store for free.

Following the design

Take a pen and paper to design the colors and patterns you are using. In this kind of free style mosaic it is good to start with simple shapes. One idea would be to choose a fun mix of colors and just try to cover the surface with different colors as evenly as possible. Draw your design to the surface. For example I planned to make multicolored circles on white background so I draw the circles to the surface.

Attach the pieces

Use multipurpose glue that goes transparent when dry. Many mosaic guides advice to apply glue to the surface and then place the pieces. I prefer to apply the glue to the piece and then place it to the surface. Especially when working with china and pottery pieces (like a mug handle) that might not be completely flat putting the glue to the piece might be easier option. 

Glue pieces to the surface according to our design. Let dry properly. It might be fun detail to let logos show so that people can find clues of what you have used as material.

Applying the grout

Prepare the grout according to the recipe in the package. Also remember to follow safety instructions that you can find on the package. Flexible silicon spatula is excellent tool when spreading the grout mass to the work.

Using a silicon spatula spread the grout all over the work so that you get it pressed between the pieces properly. Take off the extra grout on the top of the pieces. When the grout has dried a bit use wet sponge or a piece cloth to clean the pieces. Let dry properly. 

In the living room I have got a big white wall opposite a dark grey accent wall. The white wall has been very pale with no bigger wall art on it. I didn´t want a dark element as it would have looked loose on a white surface that is against the dark wall so I chose to make light yet colorful element. I am really pleased with the result as it makes the wall look higher and more interesting instead of a shadow opposite the accent wall. Now the whole room works better together. I began the design process with the thought of an extra window. Now I have got this mosaic art that looks like a window in the middle of the wall. I placed colorful flowers to the table like I would have put on the window sill. Somehow the overall look of this mosaic work looks like a painting made with pointillism. I like to look at the little details like handles and logos that remind me how it is possible to create a colorful and calm work with an interesting material mix.

I have already made plans for more mosaic projects. I have got some terracotta pots that need color. That would be nice project before it is time to put summer flowers to the balcony.

If you got inspired by the technique here you have my recommendations for further reading:

Goodwin, Elaine M. : Encyclopedia of Mosaic. BT Batsword 2003.
Encyclopedia is a handy tool when trying to study a new technique. This book introduces terms and techniques with good pictures so you have an opportunity to find out what techniques might interest you the most. Sometimes it might be difficult to find information if you don´t know what terms to use so these kind of books are excellent.

Hill, Simona (edit.): The Practical Guide To Crafting With Mosaics, Ceramics and Glassware. Lorenz Books 2006.

This book answers to many how to questions with step by step tutorials. Also lots of ideas what you can cover with mosaic. Inspiring browsing book.

Schneebeli-Morrel, Deborah: Decorating with Mosaics. Over 20 step-by-step projects using ceramics, glass, terracotta and pebbles. Collins & Brown 1999.

Interesting use of material (like old china) in various outdoor and indoor projects.

Weston, Angie: Micro Mosaic. David and Charles 2009.
When you think about mosaic first things that come to mind might be mosaic walls and big garden elements. Mosaic has lots of possibilities. This book includes many gorgeous ways to make micro mosaic: from jewelry to home decoration projects.

Cardwell, Anne: Stylish Mosaics. Over 20 contemporary projects for your home. Hamlyn 2010.
This book shows how to make beautiful and luxurious mosaic to your home and garden.

Hope you find this tutorial useful and inspiring! Have a good start for the week!


No comments:

Post a comment

Thank you for your comments!